Monday, May 15
After a much quieter night of sleep than the previous night, Kevin and I both woke up at 7:00am.
We watched a bit of Bob Esponja while we repacked a few things, then decided to take a walk and find breakfast. Cafe Central wasn't open yet, so we circled the city center one last time, passing the docks, then up the central plaza by the tourist info center.
It was about 8:00am by this point, and NOTHING was open! There were almost no other people up and around at that hour...which is exactly how I wish the US was! I'd love it if everyone agreed that you should still be sleeping at 8:00am! Despite how odd and cool I thought it was, it kinda sucks since we weren't able to get a meal before heading off for the bus stop. We arrived back at the hotel one last time and finished repacking everything into our backpacks.
Soon we were on our way back to the bus stop, which was at the end of town that we hadn't even approached in the last two days. We took a few final pictures of the area, bidding a fond farewell to this most awesome small Spanish town, and promising to come back at some point in our lifetimes. Once we arrived at the bus stop, we purchased our ride to Algeciras, which was only about half an hour away. We also found breakfast in the gas station next door...
I got a "triangle filled with cream"...
...and Kevin got ham flavored potato chips. I tried one...they actually did taste exactly like ham! The ride to Algeciras was pretty uneventful...just more beautiful scenery. I also noticed that the girl who worked in the bocadillo shop next to our hotel was also on this bus.
Once in Algeciras, we had quite a wait before our train was due to leave. We waited around a bit, but then I decided to take a walk and see if I could find anything else to eat, or anything interesting to see. I walked out of the station and to the left first, but didn't find much of anything interesting. I passed a couple of statues, some stores that were closed, and a few shady looking people. So I backtracked and headed off in the other direction. That area was distinctly less crowded, but really left me with a bad impression of Algeciras! It looked very unkempt, and even deserted in a couple of places.
I passed a decrepit looking theater, walked across an overpass over the train lines, then passed this tiny little section of land with two horses living on it! It was just covered in trash, including an old bathtub full of empty Estrella Dam cans, so I felt really sorry for the horses that had to live in those conditions. Eventually I found a gas station that was open, so I grabbed a bag of garlic and chive chips and a "Coke para Dos!" (Coke for Two), and walked back to the train station.
Kevin was checking his email at an internet kiosk when I arrived, so I just sat down and waited. I watched a woman clean the floors with some strange contraption that left little lines of water everywhere, and eventually it was time for us to board our train. Our goal was to see if we could get our own train car, so we found an empty one, but were soon joined by a few other people. One was an older Englishman, and another was a family from Germany where the dad was from Scotland and the mom was German, with a daughter named Isabella.
Aside from the breathtaking scenery we were passing...
...Isabella turned out to be the in-train entertainment for our ride! She played with her doll, played games with the older man, and any time we'd enter a tunnel, she'd yell "Dark again!" They all got off the train in Ronda, which was about halfway to Granada, which left the second half of the ride silent. Kevin napped, I read the Alhambra part of his Spain guidebook...
...and we enjoyed more of what has to be the most gorgeous countryside I've ever seen.
The view from the train
Once in Granada, we got in line for a cab to our hotel. And waited. And waited. And waited. It took over half an hour for us to be able to get a cab! Sevilla's train station was swarming with cabs, but in Granada they were very few and far between. Once we got a cab, we were very glad that we hadn't decided to walk, since it was quite far away, and there was loads of traffic! We got dropped off at our hotel, and after being unable to find anyone staffing their nearby sister hotel (which was the one we thought we were staying in) we found the Hostal Austria.
Our hotel, the Hostal Austria
This hotel is quite scenic as well!
The view from our room...that brown building at the top of the hill is the Alhambra!
We got checked in easily, quickly dropped our stuff off in the room and headed out for the first food we could find since we were both starving our tails off.
There was a Pans and Company right at the end of the street our hotel was on, which is almost like the Spanish version of a Subway or Jersey Mikes. I got a burger and fries, and I don't remember what Kevin got. It wasn't the best burger I'd ever eaten, but food of any kind was great at that point! Little did I know just how familiar I was gonna become with this Pans and Company!!
After lunch, we decided to find this little overlook area that was at the top of Sacromonte. We wandered through the Plaza Nueva and up the Paseo de los Tristes (The Walk of the Sad Ones) which was used in the past as a corridor for funeral processions to and from Sacromonte. To our right as we walked was the Alhambra, which was just massive from anywhere you could see it! A little ways up, we stopped to figure out just how to get to the overlook from where we were, so we decided to buy a couple of more Frigo popcicles to help us think! When in doubt, more Frigo! I got another Twister and Kevin got another lime Calippo and they were just as nummy as the previous ones.
We enjoyed them as we sat in a little park overlooking the spot where the River Darro begins it's journey underneath the city.
Next time I'm in Granada, I'm all about the Burro Taxi!
Soon we moved on, and began the really grueling part of the walk!
The final stretch to get up to the top of Sacromonte were stairs...hundreds of stairs! Every road that ran up there didn't have sidewalks, but stairs on the sides of them! Kevin seemed to have no trouble climbing all the way to the top, but I had to stop a couple of times just to catch my breath! It was more than worth it though...
...because the view waiting at the top was spectacular!
Kevin with the Alhambra
Me with the Alhambra
You could see the entire Alhambra as well as the River Darro and a lot of the surrounding neighborhoods. And it was very quiet, which let us really soak in the atmosphere. Kevin decided to walk a little further and check out some of the gypsy caves in the mountain, to see if he could find the one where a flamenco show we were interested in was performed. While he was gone, I sat down and tried to soak in everything that I was seeing around me. Nothing was running through my mind except that I had to savor every minute that I had there since I knew that I didn't have much longer in Spain. I knew that I wouldn't make it back to that spot for many, many years. I wanted to remember everything about that moment since it was just me, an indescribably beautiful setting, and an extreme sense of well being. It reminds of the line from a Counting Crows song..."I can't remember all the times I tried to tell myself to hold on to these moments as they pass." I don't think that life gets any better than the moments that we have like these.
Kevin returned after a little bit, and we started our descent. We decided to get lost and wander down through the Albaycin, or Jewish Quarter of the city.
I could certainly wake up to that view every morning!
We didn't have a rhyme or reason to the path we took, except that we made sure to always be going downhill! The architecture was awesome...unlike anything I'd seen in the parts of Spain we'd already seen, and certainly unlike anything in the US!
Homes in the Albaycin
We found the local Disney fan!
Most of the buildings were white, which helps keep them cool since Granada was pretty much a dry sauna when we were there.
While wandering, we came across this walltopped with broken glass
After a while, our pathway serendipitously deposited us back out onto the Paseo de los Tristes, right next to where we'd purchased the Frigo earlier!
We headed back to the hotel at that point, where I took a shower and prepared for the evening. While I was showering, Kevin decided to grab another bite to eat at Pans and Company. When I was done, I fixed my hair, put on a little makeup and wore my nicer outfit that I'd brought. We had decided well before we left home that we wanted to see a flamenco show, but we hadn't decided on which one to see. We tried to see one in Sevilla but didn't find the time, so we knew that we had to see one in Granada or we wouldn't get to see one at all. After perusing a few options, we decided on the Maria la Canastera zambra flamenco show, which is a traditional form of Gypsy flamenco. It sounded really interesting, the price was right and the time was convenient. We hadn't arranged the show's transportation ahead of time, so we hopped in a cab and got a ride once again to the top of Sacromonte.
In no uncertain terms, this flamenco show was definitely my favorite thing of the trip. The show had already started when we arrived, which meant that we'd gotten wrong time info from the tourist info center. Nonetheless, we were greeted warmly with a small glass of wine and shown to our seats.
The show was set inside a cave in the mountain, and the walls were covered in old photos, copper pots and pans, and some mirrors. There was one seating area that held maybe a dozen people on the end of the cave opposite the entrance, with everyone else being seated single file along the sides of the room. And the performers danced their way up and down a center aisle, sometimes just inches away from the audience. All of those things combined made this to be something that I will remember forever.
The performance is almost indescribable...it was almost deafeningly loud because of all the clapping, foot stomping and snapping that reverberated through the cave walls. And the dancers were amazing!
One girl was dancing so fast that her feet blurred...
...and the young girl was very accomplished for her age, which appeared to only be about 7 or 8.
The men of the family were musicians and singers, and they all sounded amazing. Truly, this was one show that exceeded every expectation I had set for it. Being on the top of a mountain, in a tiny, hot cave, drinking wine, hearing the click of the castanets, and watching gypsies dance so fast that your eyes can barely keep up, is a memory I will treasure forever.
The matriarch with one of the younger women
One of the women and the young girl dancing
The two most beautiful people in all of Spain, though they don't look it in this photo!
Emerging back out into the pleasant Granada evening was nice since the cave was quite warm with all the energy and excitement inside. A few people from the show decided to walk back down to the city, so Kevin and I grabbed their seats on the minibus provided for the show. Because of all the one way streets, the route back to the Plaza Nueva was very roundabout. Good thing we weren't in a cab, or it would have cost a fortune. It was also a nice way to get a tour of the city which didn't involve so much hiking!
It was around 11:00pm when we got back to town, and I was really hungry since I hadn't eaten before the show. Unfortunately, being a picky eater reared it's ugly head worse then than it did at any other point during the trip. First, almost everywhere in the plaza was closed. Once we found a few places that were open, I had no luck whatsoever in finding food I'd eat! Any pizza I found had blue cheese on it. Any salad I found had pork in it. Any paella I found had squid in it. It was just restaurant after restaurant of food I wouldn't eat. And when I asked a few places to make something custom for me (like a pizza without the blue cheese), I was told that they couldn't do that. I never figured out why, though Kevin suspected that all the foods came premade so they weren't customizable. Needless to say, it was frustrating, maddening and embarrassing to a degree since Kevin would have surely been able to find something to eat in any restaurant we found. I was really tired also, so I pretty much gave up the search and headed back for the hotel. As we arrived, we noticed that the ice cream parlor next door was still open, so I thought "Finally! Something I will eat!" I ultimately ended up with a cookies and cream ice cream cone for my dinner. Hooray for healthy eating! We were both so wiped out that Kevin was asleep before I was done with my ice cream, and I was in the same state not too much later.